Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - Amazon Boat Trip – FAME TEAM
Ola! Today has found us on a boat on the Amazon River. What an amazing experience. After long flights for all involved, we arrived in Manaus shortly after midnight today. The group heaved a collective sigh after getting through what I believe was the easiest customs experience that I have ever had. No questions from the official and a door marked “Nothing to Claim” that you just walked through and went on your way. God is so good!
We were greeted with a fantastic dinner (Yes I said dinner) as soon as we got on the ship and luggage was stowed. After our meal, we finally did the smart thing and all retired for a few hours of sleep. The first brave soul to get up did so at 0630 slowly followed by the rest of us over the next 1.5 hours.
After our breakfast with multiple fresh breads and fruits, we adjourned to the top deck for a lesson on Brazil itself. I did not realize how large this country is. It is the same size as the continental US and the rain forest takes up 1/3 of the area. We also learned that Brazil has overtaken the US as the largest exporter of soy beans. After our geography lesson came a brief Portuguese lesson where we learned a few choice phrases such as hello, goodbye, good morning, and thank you, and God bless you as well as a few others. We also learned our roles for the clinic.
After some free time to enjoy the glories of God’s creation, we then met again for our next task. We now know who can and can’t count to 60. We spent about 2 hours counting out vitamins, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen to help stock up the pharmacy. With an afternoon free, we all took time to enjoy the different levels of the ship and watching the river change around us. Several team members were able to watch the river dolphins swimming by and herons flying along the river’s edge. Cows and horses abound along the river banks. I even got to hear from someone that they were able to see a toucan! I happened to see a straw hat in the water. The fact that it had just flown off of my head was unimportant. We took a side trip to Sao Sebastian for some supplies and were able to see where the black water and brown water meet but do not mix.
Now, as the day draws to a close, we reflect on the marvels of the day and close with a lovely devotional by Kelly reminding us to pray for God to strengthen our hands for the coming days that we may do His will and go beyond our abilities to His abilities.
THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2019
Oi! Another exciting day on the Amazon. After a wonderful breakfast the crew and team all got together for a bilingual Bible study. We learned to sing songs in Portuguese while the crew learned a few in English. Brief devotionals were offered in English by Jim and another in Portuguese by Sanderley, the boat captain. Earl interpreted for both with only one or two issues. At one point he simply re-stated what was said and forgot to translate for us.
After Bible study there was a short free time while we finished our trip to the first village. Surprise to us though, we were going to a village that CBM has not been to before. The local missionary informed us that in 2 weeks a certain village will be flooded and so he wanted us to go there. God leads where he needs. The reason that he knew that this area will be flooded in 2 weeks is that the Amazon River rises for 6 months and then recedes for 6 months and can have a 60 foot difference in depth in this time period. We had no idea what the name of the village was until after dinner when we learned it was Ilhas das Guaribas which translates to Island of the Monkeys, specifically howler monkeys. To all of our disappointment though, we never saw any monkeys there.
Very shortly after docking in the reeds that are now the bank of the river, we opened our doors and started seeing people. Rosi would take down names and ages in the village. Then Con greeted them at the door, requested that they take off their sandals and directed them to the waiting room. Heather and Jen would obtain blood pressures, pulses, and weights then direct them to either the doctor or dentist depending on what the person was visiting for, some saw both. Dr. Jim would see anyone wanting medical evaluation with Earl translating. Kelly worked with Diandra doing basic dental hygiene and Merle worked with the dentist for the more in depth issues. After their visit with the dentist or doctor they then received their Albednezole from Bob and Marilyn who also provided each family with a gift bag of items donated by people back in the US. Some people also got to visit Debbie for a massage and exercise instructions or to get a new pair of glasses and case. Then Ruth Anne and Amber in the pharmacy would fill the prescriptions written by the doctor or dentist and Ruth Anne would provide each person education on how to take their medications. The final stop for each family prior to leaving the ship was with John for counseling and evangelizing. Probably the hardest worker of the group was Hayden who was outside the entire time (other than lunch) running around throwing Frisbees and playing soccer with the kids. In all we were able to help 96 people medically and 44 through the dentist.
After we finished with our clinic time we were blessed to attend a church service in the village. I didn’t understand 90% of what went on because it was mostly in Portuguese but it was moving. Several people spoke, some from the village and some from the crew. We sang songs in English and Portuguese. One such song Earl informed us right before we sang it that at some point Earl told us that there would be a line about smiling and hugging and we were to do this but the villagers would not know it was coming. Oh, and by the way, listen close because it will be in Portuguese. He did give us good cues though and we definitely surprised the congregation when we started hugging them. There was also a beautiful special by some of the ladies and a final message provided by Earl and Merle. It is an interesting experience to walk through pitch dark in an area that you don’t know where you know there are deep mud holes (although I was informed that Hayden had found many of these while playing with the kids) and cows have recently been grazing. I started this trek with my flash light before I had a second thought and decided to go back for my dad because I knew he didn’t have his light with him. At first, I patted myself on the back as a good daughter. I soon realized that, no, it was God again putting me where I needed to be. Several ladies and children came out of the church as I stood there. They smiled from ear to ear and reached out for a hug. I was blessed to hug them and hear them laugh and see them smile afterward.
We have now come to the end of our second day on this amazing journey and pray for God to strengthen our hands for tomorrow.
FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2019
Oi! What a beautiful morning. We had a decent rain through the night but this morning the sun was shining brightly brining God’s light to His people. We had another lovely Bible study this morning with Marilyn sharing her favorite verses from Psalm and Michelle sharing her story of traveling from her village 2 weeks by boat to go to Manaus for dental school so that she could help people. We all joined in praising God in English and Portuguese again and even learned a few new songs.
After Bible study we were off to another new village called Aguia. We all took our places for another day of sharing God’s blessings with the people of this tiny village. Hayden went out with a new skill set to thrill the kids and hopefully not kill him from dehydration. He, with the help of Con and Jen at times, would make balloon creations for the kids. He specialized in dogs and swords. I even saw a few worms (or snakes depending on your imagination) go out. The kids loved it and I even saw a few adults with balloons.
My heart goes out to these people. We have treated so many young women who are already mothers and when you do the math from a mother’s age to her child’s, most of these women were/are in their early teens when they marry and have their first child. Today we were able to serve 72 through the clinic and 51 through the dentist.
Church this evening was especially moving. The health agent (what serves as a first aid provider) from the village spoke to us. She told us that she appreciated us because her village never gets visited. They in fact feel abandoned but now they know they are loved because we came to see them. Talk about powerful! God keeps putting us where He needs us and it is so evident every day on this trip. The hugs after church were plenty but more hesitant than in the village last night. That does not make them any less welcome. I pray that this village knows that they are not forgotten or abandoned. God is always watching over them and made sure that He sent someone to us to lead us to them.
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 2019
Oi! Another fantastic day doing God’s work. Today we opened our Bible study with more English/Portuguese lessons and singing. Devotions were led by Junior, who spoke on John 3:16, and I. I spoke on how we are all part of the body of Christ and even when we feel like a big toe we serve a purpose in His will.
We were able to go to yet another new village for CBM today. We were in Saracura. Here we were able to medically see 129 people. The médico (pronounced medchico, Doctor) sees the people as a family. At one point he had a family of nine. What’s more, the mother and one of the daughters were also pregnant and about to expand the family to 11! The dentists were able to see 48 people today. I learned from Merle that it is not all tooth cleaning, pulling, and filling. They have even been able to fill in the large gaps between some peoples’ teeth and they leave the office with some of the biggest smiles that they can manage around the gauze in their mouths.
Con was especially entertained by a young boy who kept correcting his Portuguese. Con took the time to help the boy learn a little English in return. This helped improve Con’s day as it started with him finding a rather fresh Brahma pile when he fell while playing soccer with a few kids.
At church tonight we were blessed with more songs and messages. The people here hunger for hugs. We have a song that Earl leads that leads to us giving hugs to the people and they don’t want to let go at times. Sometimes it feels like you are hugging their soul. After church he told everyone to hug 3 people and we all did well above that number. It was so much fun when we left to have a fair portion of the village stick around the back of the barco to wish us well and say goodbye.
After dinner some of adjourned to the top deck to look at the stars and watch the lightning of a distant storm as the captain searched for a good spot to stop for the night. We do not dare stay on the river at night because if a barge goes by it is bad for us. We experienced a little of this today in the village when a barge went by and about 5-10 minutes later the boat was rocked so bad our water storage area on the top deck started spilling out water. The waves hit the bank of the river and sent spray up at least 4 feet. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been out on open water. It was strangely fascinating watching the captain deftly pilot us into a tiny space between some trees for the night and the watching Judson tie us to the trees for security. We were especially entertained by watching people in the homes on the shore turning on flash lights after the captain would shine our spotlight in their window while looking for a place to berth for the night. One thing you have to know is that it is pitch black on the river at night and to have a flood light shine unexpectedly into your window would have to be startling to say the least. But we are safely secured for the night and our day starts early.
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2019
Bem vindo! This past week has flown by so quickly. Today we were in yet another new village for CBM. Daniel is leading us to new territory to ensure that God’s word is spread as far as we can. This morning our Bible study was given by Bob, who spoke on Jonah, and by Judson (who is handsome, at least that’s what he said) who spoke to us about blind Bartimaeus and the importance of persistence.
In the village, Ilha das Onças, we were able to medically treat 79 people and the dentist helped 36 people. Unfortunately we have lost our ability to do much more than basic dental care now as our supply of numbing medications has run dry for use with tooth extractions.
Hayden made sure to eat lunch quickly so that he could go fishing. He managed to catch 6 fish but the 7th one he caught was so large that it pulled the little boat he was in along until the fish finally managed to break the 30 pound test line.
Church in the village tonight took place in the home that we used as our registration area. There was no church building for us to use tonight. We had a fantastic message from Con about repentance and some special songs. One of the village women thanked us for the music because it was so beautiful and no one has ever done that for them. While we were worshiping together another family showed up to see the doctor. After church we went back to the boat to do for the family what we could. On the way back to the boat, someone commented that every time we clapped after a song the chickens in the village would all come running. It turns out that the people of the village call the chickens to feed by clapping. Apparently by the fourth time we clapped, the chickens had given up on us.
After the last family had gone and we got to watch an Amazonian traffic jam, we adjourned to the top deck for a Sunday service for just those of us on the boat. Much like our Bible studies, there was singing and another great message from Con. Diandra sang some lovely specials for us as well. The new and most wonderful part of this evening’s service, was that we all took time to meditate on our own then shared in the Lord’s Supper together. I have to admit that prayer was not easy for me because I was far too distracted by the glory of the Lord surrounding us in this beautiful place. I listened to the animals in the village, watched a heron fly over the water, watched lightning in the distance, and even watched some spiders spin their webs. How gloriously complex and marvelous is this earth that God created for us.
After our communion service, we went to dinner. Earl told us about a little boy that was around 11 years old. He came on the boat to see the médico and as he was leaving he said that when he grows up he wants to be a doctor and have a boat just like this one. How awesome to hear how lives are impacted even beyond what we expect with our mere presence and ability to share the love of God with these people who, until now, have felt abandoned by the rest of the world.
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2019
Bem vindo! At our morning Bible study we heard from Heather who spoke on how God works to make change in our lives but not always the way we want or expect. We also heard from Cristiano who gave us his testimony. It was amazing to hear that before he came to work on this barco 4 years ago, he was Catholic and anti-Christian. He told us that he was told that everyone on the crew would have to do devotions but he declined in the beginning. Two years ago he converted to Christianity and today was the first devotional that he ever gave.
Today was our final new village to visit. We were in Borralho where we medically helped 52 people and the dentist saw 17 people. This is all the more impressive when you realize that we were only there for 3-4 hours. The crew had to work extra hard to create an extra-long gangway for us as we could not get close to the new bank of the river from how much it has risen. The village was also not expecting us until tomorrow so did some last minute repairs on the stairs to the building that we used for registration. At what is normally the time we break for lunch, the crew started bringing in the extra gangway and we prepared to head out to São Sebastião. Just as they were finishing putting our extra board away, two more families showed up to be seen. I was so grateful that we were able to make a way to bring them on the boat to be treated.
The rest of the day was a lazy one with almost all of us taking turns relaxing in the redes and watching the beauty of the river go by. We saw several dolphins through the day and even saw one pink dolphin. Heather is still holding onto hopes of seeing an anaconda but this still has not happened yet.
I know today is a short journal but it was just a wonderful day of peace and fellowship while sharing in God´s glory all around us.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2019
Oi! Today was probably our hardest day yet. Devotionals were provided by Merle who did a great trick to demonstrate how good works alone can make things worse and that we need the blood of Christ to cleanse us. Diandra then spoke from Joshua about how God provides us opportunities to repent if we only take them. Con then spoke on why he always says Good Morning and how beautiful his feet are. In essence there is a verse in Psalms (30:5b) that speaks on rejoicing coming with the morning and in Isaiah (52:7) when he speaks on how beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news.
After devotionals we traveled up to the greenhouse. Four of us rode a local taxi (basically a cart with two benches attached to a motor bike) while the rest walked the distance. We were greeted by Santana who runs the green house and after a brief tour, including the Chicken Palace, we were put to work. Immediately the women were told to pick green onions while the men started working the soil with hoes in preparation for fresh planting. After the onions were collected the women split off with some of us filling 2 liter bottles with water that will eventually be used to build walls around the rows of crops and others weeding around the crops that were already established. Santana treated us to a very light and refreshing ice cream that was made from a new fruit tree at the green house.
After we completed our tasks and got the leavings taken to the compost pile, we walked back to the barco for lunch. Earl allowed us a couple of hours to rest up and look as some lovely crochet work done by the local ladies for us to purchase. After what did not seem like enough time, we walked back to the greenhouse again. Santana had some beautiful jewelry out that she makes out of various seeds to sell. After a time to shop and relax we got back to work. We again split into a couple of groups with some working the soil again with hoes, some doing more weeding, and a few of us filing plastic cups with soil in preparation for the start of seedlings. After these tasks were completed, Santana treated us to a sweet bread and juice.
On the way back to the barco Merle, Con, John and I split off to see where the church is that CBM has helped build. We were even able to stop and talk to the minister’s family. Once we all got back to the boat, it was time to take a quick dip in the river. It was so refreshing! We had about 30 minutes out there before it was time to shower and get ready for dinner. Several of us went up on the top deck just to enjoy each other’s company for a while after eating. Such a lovely night. But now the day winds down and we are all ready for our beds and some personal time to journal.
Bom dia my friends. Vamos adorar a Deus (I just came to praise the Lord!)